Marvin Olasky

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Marvin Olasky (born June 12, 1950) is editor-in-chief of WORLD Magazine, the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion, and Distinguished Chair in Journalism and Public Policy at Patrick Henry College. He is married to writer and professor Susan Olasky, and they have four sons.[1]

Education and career[edit]

Olasky was born in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, to a Russian-Jewish family and graduated from Yale University in 1971 with a B.A. in American Studies.[2] In 1976 he earned his Ph.D. in American Culture at the University of Michigan.[2] He became an atheist in adolescence and a Marxist in college, ultimately joining the Communist Party USA in 1972.[2] He left the Communist Party the following year and in 1976 became a Christian after reading the New Testament and a number of Christian authors.[2]

Olasky was provost of The King's College in New York City from 2007 to 2011, prior to which he was a professor in the University of Texas at Austin journalism department. He is now dean of the World Journalism Institute and a senior fellow of the Acton Institute.[3][4] He joined World Magazine in 1990 and became its editor in 1994 and its editor-in-chief in 2001. Earlier, he was a reporter on the Boston Globe and a speechwriter at the Du Pont Company.[2] Since 1996 he has been a ruling elder within the Presbyterian Church of America.

Olasky’s most famous book is The Tragedy of American Compassion, which in 1992 Newt Gingrich distributed to incoming Republican representatives of the 104th Congress.[5] The book, an overview of poverty-fighting in America from colonial times to the 1990s, argues that private individuals and organizations, particularly Christian churches, have a responsibility to care for the poor, and contends that challenging personal and spiritual help, common until the 1930s, was more effective than the government welfare programs of recent decades.[6] Olasky argues that government programs are ineffective because they are disconnected from the poor, while private charity has the power to change lives because it allows for a personal connection between giver and recipient.[6]

The book eventually helped to define "compassionate conservatism" in relation to welfare and social policy. In 1995, Olasky became an occasional advisor to Texas gubernatorial candidate George W. Bush. Bush made faith-based programs a major component of his 2000 presidential campaign, and Olasky's academic work helped form the basis for Bush's "compassionate conservatism."[5] In 2001 and thereafter Olasky and WORLD criticized the Bush administration for not following through on school choice or on ideas for tax credits to encourage more individual giving to poverty-fighting groups. [5] In an interview with Mike Huckabee on October 10, 2009, Olasky sweepingly denied that the Bush administration had implemented compassionate conservatism, remarking that "it was never tried."[7]

Olasky became provost of The King's College in June 2007. On November 5, 2010, the college announced his resignation, saying he would "devote more time to his role as editor-in-chief of World magazine."[8] In an online article at Christianity Today about the announcement, Olasky suggested the move was related to the recent hiring of Dinesh D'Souza as the college's president: "'It will come as no surprise to you that Dinesh D'Souza and I have different ideas about some things," [Olasky] said in an e-mail to Christianity Today. 'I'd like to leave it at that and not do an interview.' In a blog post, WORLD publisher Nick Eicher said "there are no hard feelings" between Olasky and The King's College.[9]

On August 22, 2011, Patrick Henry College announced Olasky's appointment to its newly created Distinguished Chair in Journalism and Public Policy beginning in the fall semester of 2011.[10] During four weeks of the year he mentors journalism students who become interns with World, and interviews before a student audience newsmakers from politics, culture, and other fields.


At The King's College[edit]

Olasky was provost of The King’s College from August 2007 through January 2011. Through his journalism and connection to World magazine, he helped to publicize the college,[11] but some students strongly disagreed with his policies.

An editorial in a student journal called The Gadfly (published in December 2008) criticized Olasky for relaxing academic standards. [12] Olasky was also criticized for his plan to have all of the courses at King’s “engage” New York City through field trips and similar activities. [13]

Olasky’s public statements on his duties as provost were also controversial. Roughly three months before announcing his resignation, he asserted that as provost he was responsible for ensuring that the academic program at King’s “remains firmly in the Protestant, evangelical tradition.”[14] But according to official documents, King’s is a nondenominational Christian college.[15] Despite his defense of King's as an evangelical institution, the first person Olasky hired as Provost was Dr. Anne Hendershott, a sociology professor and a practicing Roman Catholic. In Hendershott's first semester at King's, Olasky appointed her to head the college's program in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics.[16] [17]

Other controversies[edit]

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Olasky edited the 16-book Turning Point Christian Worldview series funded by Howard Ahmanson, Jr.'s Fieldstead Institute. Ahmanson has funded four of Olasky's 27 books, and Michelle Goldberg, author of the book Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, places Olasky in a crucial role in the Christian reconstructionism and dominionism movements, saying "I’m not sure whether he actually identifies himself as a Christian reconstructionist, but he’s very close to Christian reconstructionism."[18] Olasky has described himself as a "Christian libertarian."[19]

Olasky diverges from the mainstream of journalistic theory. He argues in his 1996 book Telling the Truth that God created the world, knows more about it than anyone else, and explains its nature in the Bible, so "biblical objectivity" accurately depicts the world as it is, whereas conventional journalistic objectivity shows either a blind materialism or a balancing of subjectivities.[20][21] He has emphasized the Christian origins of freedom of the press and investigative journalism.[20]

Olasky attained brief mass-media notoriety when he contrasted George W. Bush's first presidential campaign in 2000 with that of John McCain:

"It would be pushing it too far to talk of the religion of Zeus trumping the religion of Christ. McCain’s no polytheist. But a lot of liberal journalists have holes in their souls. Some of them grew up in nominally Christian homes but never really heard the Gospel; now they are looking for purpose in their lives but have no understanding of God’s grace. Others know more but don’t want to repent. So, McCain’s emphasis on the classical virtues gives them a post-Clinton glow without pushing them to confront their own lives."[22]

Jonah Goldberg, who took exception to Olasky's descriptions of both candidates, nonetheless recognized what Olasky was trying to say:

The Zeus reference seems to be derived from the ending of Tom Wolfe’s novel, A Man in Full, in which two of the characters decide to convert to Zeus worship. And what Olasky meant by it was that McCain supporters generally, and Brooks specifically, are attracted to "Zeus-like strength" rather than Christ-like compassion. McCain is all about honor and duty and Bush is about charity and love. Zeus versus Christ. There you have it.[23]

In her 2004 book Bushwomen, Laura Flanders writes, "Olasky is not a fan of high-achieving women. Women joining the workforce have had 'dire consequences for society,' he told a Christian magazine in 1998.” Olasky later said in response to this book that he was actually praising the high achievements of women in major philanthropic organizations: “From my study of the history of poverty-fighting in America, I found that it was basically women who ran the charitable enterprises. Men were involved, but it was essentially women who had the time to volunteer… Now they don’t have the time because so many of them work.”[24][25][26]

In a 1999 profile of Olasky for the New York Times Magazine, David Grann claimed Olasky had hidden his first marriage, which ended in divorce while Olasky was in his early 20s. "Olasky had — until a family member accidentally mentioned it to me — carefully hidden his divorce from the press."[5] In a subsequent letter to the editor of the Times, Olasky disputed that characterization.[27]

Other Activities[edit]

Olasky chaired the boards of City School of Austin and the Austin Crisis Pregnancy Center. He has been a foster parent, a PTA president, a Little League assistant coach, and a visiting professor at Princeton University and Reformed Theological Seminary. He has bicycled across the United States, crossed the Pacific on a freighter, rafted through the Grand Canyon, and traveled in 47 countries. He is a fellow of the Wilberforce Forum and the Hill Country Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

Olasky edited Philanthropy, Culture, and Society from 1991 to 1994, was a columnist for the Austin American-Statesman from 1996 to 2003, and was a syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate from 2001 to 2008. Philanthropy magazine called Olasky’s The Tragedy of American Compassion one of “eight books that changed America.” His writings have been translated into Chinese, Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, and other languages, and he has lectured in Europe, Asia, and South America.

Notable publications[edit]


  1. ^ [1] "In Depth with Marvin Olasky", C-SPAN, 6 May 2007
  2. ^ a b c d e Olasky, Marvin. "A Pilgrim's Slow Progress." WORLD Magazine. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
  3. ^ [2], "World Journalism Institute," Retrieved 26 June 2011
  4. ^ [3], The Acton Institute, Marvin Olasky Staff Profile, Retrieved September 1, 2011
  5. ^ a b c Grann, David. "Where W. Got Compassion." The New York Times Magazine, 12 September 1999.
  6. ^ a b "The Tragedy of American Compassion" Regenery, 1992.
  7. ^
  8. ^ press release, The King's College, 5 November 2010
  9. ^ Eicher, Nick. "Marvin Olasky in Full." WORLD Magazine, 5 November 2010. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
  10. ^ Halbrook, David. "Dr. Marvin Olasky New Distinguished Chair of Journalism. Patrick Henry College Press Release, 22 August 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  11. ^ Olasky, Marvin. "Romantic Realism", World Magazine, July 14, 2007, accessed August 22, 2011.
  12. ^ Editorial "The Death of Difficulty." The Gadfly, December 15, 2008, accessed August 22, 2011.
  13. ^ Case, Brendan. "Batman Returns." The Gadfly, September 28, 2009, accessed August 22, 2011.
  14. ^ Bailey, Sarah Pulliam. "Dinesh D'Souza to Lead NYC's King's College." Christianity Today, August 24, 2010, accessed August 22, 2011.
  15. ^ The King's College About TKC. Accessed August 22, 2011.
  16. ^ Wesley, Stephen. "Hendershott Redux: Another Look at the Controversial Appointment." The Gadfly, February 1, 2009, accessed August 22, 2011.
  17. ^ Wesley, Stephen. "Hendershott Redux: Another Look at the Controversial Appointment." The Gadfly, February 1, 2009, accessed December 6, 2011.
  18. ^ Goldberg, Michelle. "BuzzFlash Interview: Christian Nationalism Inside America's Mega-Churches" WorkingForChange, 2 June 2006.
  19. ^ Olasky, Marvin. [4] "Were Nazis Christians?" Human Events, 12 October 2006
  20. ^ a b Moll, Rob (2004). "World Journalism Institute Changes Its Focus". Christianity Today. Retrieved 2006-08-08.
  21. ^ Olasky, Marvin. Telling the Truth: How to Revitalize Christian Journalism (1996). Available online.
  22. ^ “McCain and the Religion of Zeus,” Austin American Statesman, Austin American Statesman Feb. 16, 2000.
  23. ^ Goldberg, Jonah (2000). "McCain's Still My Guy". National review. Retrieved 2006-08-08.
  24. ^ "Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood", 1998
  25. ^ "Austin American-Statesman", 13 April 2000
  26. ^ World Magazine, 20 May 2000
  27. ^ Olasky, Marvin. "Letter to the Editor." The New York Times, October 31, 1999. Retrieved September 1, 2011.

External links[edit]